Overall Rating – 7 out of 10 (Good)
Strengths – Repeatable fun that gamers of any age can learn quickly. High portability, with colorful components and simple setup. Engaging decision-making for certain demographics, skewing toward younger. Decent value for the price (generally less than $12, depending on where you look.)
Areas of Possible Improvement – Not for those looking for deep strategy. The pad of papers eventually runs out, and there’s no clear way as to how to replace it.
Gamewright’s Rolling America is a super-compact dice game that challenges players to fill in as much of a map of the United States as possible, while using simple rolling and number-placement rules. Namely, the map is divided into several color-coded sections, such as orange for the southwest and purple for the Midwest. When a player rolls the six colored dice, they are to place the rolled numbers in a state in the correspondingly colored section of the map (e.g. the value on the blue die must go in the blue section), under the restriction that neighboring states cannot have the same number. Players continue in this fashion until no more states can be legally numbered.
The makers should be commended on not making this a large-scale game with a map that covers an entire tabletop; this reviewer can see others running with the concept and missing the point entirely. Instead, the paper maps are only a few inches by a few more inches in size, making the product perfect for play as kids roll through the very states they’re marking up, perhaps in the back seat of the stereotypical station wagon. And they need never be frustrated with Rolling America, even when they feel stuck: the maps provide areas in which to mark “gimmes” or “mulligans,” if a particularly bad roll leaves few or no options, and this mechanic forces a certain level of judiciousness and strategic thinking.
Those who are considering Rolling America, however, should know what they’re getting into, and Settlers of Catan it ain’t. Because players aren’t really influencing each other’s progress, this product will never feel particularly competitive or anything but light-hearted. I’d go so far as to even say that far better choices exist for ways in which players can bond; once the parents get to the hotel in the aforementioned road trip, the need for such distractions drops dramatically. It should be noted that the game tends to not play the same way twice, as the outcome of early rolls greatly influences the playability of later rolls. Yet, during testing of this product, I never quite felt motivated to draw out a ‘perfect map,’ as Gamewright playfully encourages people to post online in the instructions, should they achieve this supposedly rare feat.
That said, Rolling America is fun for at least several plays, and the simplicity of the components allows for good financial value. It’s also particularly nice that the box snaps tightly shut so that papers and dice have minimal risk of spilling everywhere, regardless of the context in which the game is played. And there’s even the remote chance (although states are not labeled with their names) that players can subtly learn their geography while examining the map. As its tagline says, it’s truly “star-spangled!”